Harmonix

Harmonix_logo

I joined Harmonix in 2006; I was there before its purchase to MTV/Viacom, through its Rock Band heyday, and finally to its return to being an independent studio. In addition to running the design department for several years, I contributed to a number of projects as a designer, programmer, and creative lead. Here’s a brief overview of my work at the studio.

The Beatles: Rock Band

02313268-photo-the-beatles-rock-band

Who I Was: Lead Designer

What I Did:

  • Expanded creative brief from Harmonix/Apple Corps into full design overview, kicking off preproduction.
  • Oversaw all aspects of gameplay design, with heavy involvement in the Vocal Harmonies system and Story Mode.
  • Led daily iteration meetings for Vocal Harmonies system, presaging studio’s eventual move to agile development.
  • Incorporated Apple Corps’ suggestion to reflect Beatles milestones by designing a “Mario stars”-like progression system with collectible historical events, and curated Apple Corps archival photographs to populate the system.
  • Facilitated technical design for psychedelic “dreamscape” venues and historical concert performance behaviors.
  • Edited 120 historical mini-essays, and maintained composure during an in-person fact-checking session by Sir Paul McCartney.

“… a celebration of such incredible care and artistry it sets a new standard by which all band-specific game experiences will be judged in the future.” — Eurogamer.net

Link: I blogged about my Beatles experience for Rockband.com.

Green Day: Rock Band

gdrbWho I Was: Project Lead

What I Did:

  • Developed “three-eras, three-concerts, three-albums” concept in consultation with the band Green Day.
  • Oversaw co-development with Demiurge Studios, ensuring authentic presentation of the band and proper handling of existing Rock Band gameplay.
  • Worked with band management to secure creative approval on all key milestones.
  • Helped Art Director oversee mocap sessions to capture live performances of 52 Green Day songs.
  • Was “the face of the game” for promotional events in USA and England.

Link: Launch Trailer

Rock Band 4

RockBand4_Screenshot01_2015-08-03-10amETWho I Was: Co-Lead Designer, Data Scientist

What I Did:

  • Maintained design and quality standards for the migration of legacy mechanics to a brand-new proprietary engine.
  • Built C++ prototypes in Harmonix engine to prove out new mechanics for career and party modes.
  • Designed and implemented all Business Intelligence datapoints using existing C++ framework.
  • Spent over a year developing visualizations of BI data within Tableau, and assisted with eventual data migration to DeltaDNA.

“… Rock Band 4 remains every bit the magical cooperative gaming experience the series has always been.” — IGN.com

Rock Band VR

RBVR_on_stage_with_HUD.pngWho I Was: Onboarding/FTUE Designer

What I Did:

  • Joined late in development, and took over the Onboarding/FTUE flow.
  • Redesigned the experience to better train players for the game’s core dynamic of making musical choices.
  • As product owner, ensured all 23 lessons met quality bar under a tight schedule.
  • Wrote and edited voice-over script for all lessons.
  • Also designed and helped integrate BI datapoints for all game systems.

“When asked by the producers what I thought after the demo, all I could muster was ‘amazing’. It’s not hyperbole.” — GQ.co.uk

Link: VRHeads Review (includes tutorial images)

Phase

phaseWho I Was: Designer/Programmer

What I Did:

  • Was sole designer charged with re-envisioning an existing concept for a new platform, the Apple iPod.
  • Designed core music-game mechanics for a unique controller (the click-wheel), with an emphasis on mobile-game-style accessibility and instant fun.
  • Designed multiple iterations of the metagame, settling on an arcade-style progression suitable for mobile.
  • Coded procedural-level-construction algorithms in C that converted transient/beat data extracted from any song into game levels with recognizable arcs of difficulty, mechanical variety, and reflection of musical structure.
  • Took over programming of the metagame, and of some gameplay mehchanics.
  • Built prototype touchwheel controllers by cutting integrated touchpads out of computer keyboards with a bandsaw.

“Unsurprisingly, it was a music game that proved to be the first great release on the platform.” — TheVerge.com

Link: Promotional Video

Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

fantasia_elkWho I Was: Systems/UX Designer

What I Did:

  • Joined long-in-development project to help transform a suite of “musical realm” prototypes into a coherent user experience.
  • Focused on enriching existing motion controls with greater expression, learnability, and fault tolerance.
  • Built prototypes in proprietary scripting language to prove key mechanical concepts related to Kinect playspace usage.
  • Worked closely with UX art team to develop a unified visual language for all key user interactions, across ten unique environments and multiple art styles.
  • Helped kickstart conversations on progression flow for the metagame.
  • Programmed an adhoc telemetry system in C++, so that the song authoring team could visualize player success rates of various gesture sequences.

Dance Central Spotlight

Dance-Central-Spotlight-09-06-14-002Who I Was: Senior Designer

What I Did:

  • Redesigned the streak-based scoring system to provide a more appealing score-chasing experience.
  • Designed a brand-new on-demand practice mode, letting players use voice and gamepad controls to interrupt play and begin looping rehearsal of any choreography sequence, then resume performance.
  • Saw rehearsal feature through from initial concept to final implementation.

Rock Band Blitz

rbblitzWho I Was: Prototype Designer

What I Did:

  • Led prototyping initiative to revisit controller-based, multi-track beatmatch mechanics from older Harmonix games.
  • Developed play prototypes that explored alternate control schemes and player goals, which informed and influenced the design of the shipping game.

Additional Titles

Who I Was: Design Director

What I Did: Contributed to and consulted on a number of other games, including:

  • Rock Band Unplugged (Playstation Portable)
  • Lego Rock Band (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, DS)
  • Rock Band 3 (Nintendo DS)

Unreleased Prototypes

Who I Was: Creative Lead, Design Lead

What I Did:

  • Oversaw small prototyping teams to develop new gameplay concepts for internal review and publisher pitches.
  • Also got hands dirty with design specs and Unity programming, often as sole designer, and occasionally as sole programmer.
  • One recent prototype was handed off to become the basis of multiple project initiatives.